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Dig diary 27th June: Sweltering Swandro – the heat, the dust, the kleggs

Our second day on site and the heatwave finally hit – barely a breath of wind and temperatures soaring to the dizzy heights – well, dizzy for Orkney – of 22 degrees C. Worst of all the kleggs (horse flies) were out in force, entire battalions descending on the poor unsuspecting diggers, who were bitten half to death throughout the day despite copious application of bug spray. Don’t know what kleggs live on when they can't get archaeologists, and their bite is quite painful – after all their mandibles are designed to go through horse or cow hide, so human bare skin is nothing – they'll even get you through a light T-shirt. About the only good thing about a klegg is the word itself – it's straight from the Old Norse kleggi, so the swatting diggers could at least be consoled by the thought that the Vikings who lived at Swandro over a thousand years ago were cursing the kleggs in very similar terms. I think you can probably chart the Viking/Norse influence in the British Isles by the areas where horseflies are kleggs – certainly in Cumbria they are, I don’t know where else exactly – there's definitely a PhD right there!

Work today consisted of finishing clearing last years backfill from our Pictish Smithy so it will be ready for the visit of our archaeometallurgist Dr Gerry McDonnell:

The Pictish Smithy emerges from its winter hibernation at Swandro, Rousay
The Pictish Smithy emerges from its winter hibernation

We also had a few early visitors to site, some of whom were surprised to find us hard at work, but others who knew about the site, including one intrepid kayaker who had paddled over from the Evie shore and kindly offered to help us in - unfortunately neoprene kayaking booties (sorry if that's not the right technical term) don't really protect your feet - steel toed boots are the order of the day, so we had to sadly decline.

Our first kayaker
Our first kayaker

We have also been making good use of our new site interpretation board, suitably patriotically decorated with Saltires and the Orkney flag, with some nice photos of the site and a good aerial view too - perfect place to start our site tours:

Our new Swandro interpretation board
Our new Swandro interpretation board

We're starting in on de-turfing the top of the chambered tomb shortly, and another hot day is forecast for tomorrow - probably another day of klegg swatting too!


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